Dr. Alejandra de Alba Campomanes performs an eye exam of 14-month old Jessie Haggin as his godfather, Harry Campbell holds him during their first visit to the Pediatric Eye Center at SFGH.

Although San Francisco General Hospital’s new Pediatric Eye Center opened only four months ago, the effect the new kid-friendly environment is having on patients is clear.

“The people who work here are happier because the patients are happier coming here,” said Dr. Alejandra de Alba Campomanes, a Pediatric Ophthalmologist and the center’s director.

The new center, which shares the same area as the regular ophthalmology center, includes two new exam rooms that are both kid-friendly and equipped for smaller humans. For example, instead of a board with letters that become progressively tinier, the Pediatric Eye Center has a flat panel TV that displays images of animals and shapes that change in size to allow physicians to rate a child’s vision. You can also buy contacts online.

“The new center allows us to give better diagnoses and provide better treatments and expand access to the clinic to the children of San Francisco,” said Campomanes.

With more inviting wood floors as opposed to ugly institutional floors commonplace in hospitals and a colorful waiting room full of toys to keep kids occupied, children will have a more enjoyable experience. By extension, if the kids are happy then their caregivers will be happier as well and be more likely to bring them back for follow-up examinations, said Campomanes.

“We do have to see these kids very frequently and if they don’t come back then the treatments aren’t as effective,” she said, adding that it is especially important for children have regular eye exams because any issues with vision after about age five can be permanent.

The most common problems among kids are cataracts in newborns, misaligned eyes leading to crossed eyes or lazy eye, and eye illnesses suffered by premature babies. All of these can lead to blindness if not treated, according to a press release issued by the hospital.

The American Foundation for the Blind reports that in California approximately 9,000 children under the age of five and nearly 50,000 children between the ages five and seven are visually impaired.

San Francisco resident, Harry Campbell was at the Pediatric Eye Center to watch after his 14-month-old godson, Jessie Haggin, who was born premature. It was Campbell’s second time bringing his godson to General for an eye exam but their first since the new Pediatric Eye Center was built.

Because Campbell’s godson was born premature it is critical he receives regular checkups to make sure his eyes are improving, said Campomanes.

One of the most striking differences for Campbell from the regular ophthalmology center, which is right down the hall from the Pediatric Eye Center, is that the waiting area is more kid-friendly.

“Jessie likes being around other little kids because it gives him a sense of comfort.”

“This is a fabulous facility here in the city. They take care of babies with extreme care and thoroughness from the time they are born and thereafter,” said Campbell.

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